Reading and learning about discourse communities has brought to mind the many communities I am a part of, and how distinct they are from each other. Some of the most interesting of the groups I am a part of are online fan communities and the natural hair community.
I am a part of a few fan communities online that involve books and music, through multiple social media websites and music forums. Being a part of fan online communities often involves communication through memes that are often proliferated throughout the internet outside their bubbles, but each fandom has specific terms and language. Specifically being a fan of Mariah Carey, for example, involves discussions most of those not in the know may take some time to become accustomed to.
Firstly, to be a devoted Mariah fan is to be called a lamb and a member of the lambily. Similarly, most music artists have a name for each fandom if they are famous within pop music such as the Beyhive for Beyonce fans. Also like other fan groups, lambs recognize most songs and albums in her discography by its acronym or nickname such as AIWFC for the song All I Want for Christmas is You or Einstein for the album E=MC^2. Lambs have dubbed well known quotes of the artist Mariah-isms (“I don’t know her”, “I can’t even know what to say”, “moments”, “anniversaries not birthdays”). There is also a necessary basic education of music terminology necessary for all fans because vocal analysis and appreciation is usually the drawing factor for all lambs. My favorite of all is the tendency to add the term -riah to any and everything Mariah related such as using Curly-riah to refer to Mariah when she wears her hair in natural curls or Debut-riah relating to anything Mariah related during the period of an album’s release including fashion, vocal technique and timbre, and music styles.
A much different discourse community I am involved with is the natural hair community. This community spans across different mediums and websites, but my involvement has been through youtube, instagram and forums such as naturallycurly.com and longhaircareforum.com. These forums are organized to help people learn hair care across the spectrum of hair types but were primarily visited by women curly to coily hair. Information shared there and on other sites has been integral to the popularity of the natural hair movement. This movement involved women who had formerly heat straightened or chemically straightened their hair beginning a shift into wearing their hair with their natural curl pattern. It started around the early 2010s and especially involved women of color and black women.
The specific language used by posters to these forums was necessary to share ingredients in products to seek and avoid and methods of care and styling. For example, posters advised others to avoid parabens, lanolin and mineral oils, and instead look for humectants like glycerin. Methods for care that were all intended to improve the moisturization and condition of one’s hair included baggying, pre-pooing, raking, shingling, and the LOC and LCO steps. Most important to know was hair type because all care revolved around an individual’s type of hair. Hair typing is a system still debated and controversial to this day although the natural hair movement has slowed past its peak. It includes identifying the degree of curl in one’s strands from the straightest possible hair to wavy strands to curls and coils as tight as possible and assigning a number and letter grade, 1 – 4c respectively. Hair type also includes porosity, density, and thickness.
Each discourse community I am apart of has its own unique language. The terminology used sometimes can be complex such as learning all about vocal technique and hair product ingredients but learning these things have helped me integrate into groups that serve broader entertainment or self-care purposes.